Over the Hill

Posted: December 13, 2010 by TheWild Webster in Fiction, Hunting and Fishing Stories
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

“I think we should take the ole Cajun out hunting with us today,” said Jack as Bob was loading up the back of the truck.

“Aww, why do you wanna go and to that?  I mean he’s a good ole coot and all that, but … it’s just that!  He’s an old coot!”

“We haven’t taken him out in a while and I feel for the old guy.  Besides, didn’t he always take us out when we were young and itchin green?”

“And bitched the whole time!” replied Bob.  “That’s just it.  He ain’t never shut up.  That is unless he’s puffing on that old pipe of his.  Yeah, ok.  I don’t mind taking him with us once in a while, but I just wish you’d give me more of a heads up so I can ‘prepare myself’ for the experience.  He’s always criticizing everything I do!”

“And he’s usually right too!” retorted Jack as Bob hopped into the pick-up truck.

“… and why’d you have to bring the pick-up if you’re planning to pick up the ole cajun?”  Bob asked looking at Jack who had already pulled out onto the two track leading from the cabin.  He just looked straight ahead, not responding to the question.

“OOOOOH no!  No, no, no!” Bob repeated.  “That’s where I draw the line!  You aren’t gonna catch me dead in that thing!”  Jack just continued to look straight ahead trying to fight back a grin.  “God dammit all…  well I ain’t gonna push it back if that old heap of his breaks down again.  The old fart can either walk back with us or rot in the back seat as far as I’m concerned!”

The ‘old heap’ was the cajun’s old range rover, reasonably well maintained — for a 50 year old heap!  It liked to cough, sput and wheeze a lot, but it generally got you to where you were going…. eventually!  The old man was partial to it, Bob had often remarked ‘because it has his smell in it!  Old man smell!’

Truth be told Jack and Bob loved the old Cajun.  They’d always thought of him as the ‘old Cajun’ and had heard  his real name once or twice, but everyone they knew, knew him by that moniker and whatever the name was they’d long since forgotten it.  In friendlier one-on-one scenarios, they could refer to him as ‘old man’, ‘old fart’ or sometimes he’d even respond to ‘ya ole rat bastard’ if he was being particularly crotchety and knew he was acting as such as to be deserving of the designation.  The ole fart seemed to take pleasure sometimes in being a rat bastard — it was part of his old Cajun charm.

They loved the guy because it was true — when they were  young boys and couldn’t find anyone to take them hunting, the old Cajun would eventually succumb to the task (albeit with some young-boy pestering) of taking them out hunting with him.  And it was also true that he’d pretty much gripe about them being along the whole time, and yes, he was often right.  His personality would rub some people the wrong way though with how he’d just come out and say things.  But it didn’t seem to bother two young boys itching to hunt.

Jack and Bob weren’t young boys any longer, and if they thought the Cajun was old when they were teenagers, they knew he was old now.  It was now up to them to take the old timer hunting instead.  And Jack knew the old timer wasn’t the type to nag them incessantly to go the same way they had when they were kids.  In fact, it was quite likely they’d have to nag him to come along.

As Jack pulled off onto the two track drive leading to the Cajun’s cabin, Bob was still grumbling to  himself.  Yeah, Bob liked the old guy too but, as he said, he liked to  have sufficient forewarning to prepare himself for the experience.

They pulled to the homestead and the old man was out front cutting wood.  His old cabin was a modest little place.  The Cajun claimed that his grand-pappy’s grand-pappy built the place “way back in ’02” although you couldn’t quite get him narrowed down to a specific century on that claim.

It too was reasonably well kept up… for a 100+ year old rickety shack.  Antlers and other assorted trophies adorned the place inside and out to show for many years of successful hunts.  Every item had a story, and if you had the patience, he’d likely tell them to you.  If you didn’t have the patience, he’d likely tell you anyway, but with the longer version.

“What tha hell do you boys want?” was the greeting they got as they pulled up.

The general opinion of the “boys” was that chopping wood was to the old man what watching TV was to anyone else.  He’d never been much into modern amenities and it took a considerable amount of arguing to get him to even install a telephone.

“Come on ole man, we’re going hunting,” said Jack out of the truck window as he pulled to a stop out front.

“Aww hell, I cain’t go huntin – I gots this wood ‘ere ta chop!”

Didn’t you call him ahead of time?” asked Bob in a whisper.

I did,” Jack whispered back.  “but you know the old man.  Either he’s senile or he ain’t and either way he ain’t gonna let on which way it works out.  You know him, just play along.

“Tell  ya what ole man,” said Jack in response as  he stepped out of the truck.  “If you take us out huntin’, we’ll chop the wood for you when we get back.”  Bob gave him a sideways glance, but knew the deal.  You had to bribe the old man in some way or he’d just play more difficult till he got something out of it for himself.

“Aww, you rapskallions ne’re do cut mah wood much good no how,” he argued, but was already putting the axe aside.  Bob wondered to himself if he’d even chopped a single log himself as he looked around at the pieces scattered about.  None appeared to be fresh cut.  It’s likely the old man had been sitting on the porch waiting to hear the truck and just put on a show of chopping to set the terms.  Bob half chuckled to himself.

“Come on  ya ole rat bastard, shut up and get yer danged gun!” rejoindered Bob after summing up the circumstances.  The Cajun just gave him a dirty look and shuffled over to the door.

Sure enough, his old M1 Garand and a box of shells as well as his hunting coat were sitting just inside the door.  Bob just looked at Jack and shook his head as Jack laughed.

They grabbed their gear out of the back of the truck and loaded the Range Rover.  Jack almost had to wrestle the keys from the Cajun.

“I’ll be damned if I’m gonna ride passeenger in mah own damn car!” he snapped.

“Oh come on old man, how you gonna smoke  your pipe?” asked Jack.  Bob winced slightly at the thought.

“Ah can smoke mah pipe and drive!” retorted the old timer.

You can barely drive without the pipe,’ thought Bob but kept the thought to himself.  It was all just a show, a tete a tete for the old man’s benefit.  He was getting up in years and didn’t like to admit he depended as much as he did on the ‘boys’ for his chances to get out and hunt.  They played along out of respect for all the times they’d depended on him for the same privilege.

Jack fired up the range rover with it’s typical cough, sput and weeze and a considerable amount of coaxing, but before too long they were back out on the two track and heading for the hunting area.  The old man grumbled a bit to himself in the back seat keeping up the show.  Bob grumbled to himself a bit in the front seat, but not insincerely.  Before too long thick white smoke was puffing forward from the back seat.  Bob stifled back a cough but knew not to make it too obvious or he’d get a berating from the back about how he was ‘just a lightweight‘.

Without too much ado, they had found their way up to the foot hills and pulled into their regular place to park.

“Why the heyall arn’t we up at the Jamison stead?” came a complaint from the back.

“I told you last time old timer.  The Jamison’s sold their place a good decade or more ago.  It’s a KOA campground now.  No hunting allowed.” said Jack looking in the rear view mirror as he pulled the rover to a stop.

“No huntin!  That thar is a sin!” was the only muffled response.

They managed to get their gear out and get the old timer suited up – with about as much coaxing as it took to start the Rover, and considerable sputtering and weezing too – and headed on down the trail toward their blinds.

“I don’t need yer danged help.  I ain’t a gal durned cripple!” the old man said in complaint to Bob’s hand under his arm.  Bob let go and the man fell almost immediately to his knees over an old stump.  Bob just looked down half grinning.

“Well what the hayell ar’ ya lookin at?  Help me up gal danged it?” was the old man’s response.  After offering a hand up, the old man then put his hands, one on each of their arms for balance himself.

It just has to be on his terms,’ thought Bob and he just shrugged off the thought and kept walking.

The corn cob pipe still hung from his lips, but had gone out shortly before they arrived.  It was a bit slower go helping the old man along but they eventually arrived at the first stand — a short staircase leading up to a large platform stand with a built in seat.

“Here’s where you can hunt old timer,” said Jack.  “It’s got a great view of the ravine down below and you’ll be able to see both of us in our blinds.”  He left out the part about ‘… and it’s also the shortest distance to the truck,’ but mentioning that would only start another debate.  “We’ve been seeing a couple of nice, but modest 8 points running through here so there will be a good chance to see some deer.”

Bob pointed out across the ravine.  “There’s a big run with a scrape at the bottom just across the….”

“I know what a danged deer looks like!” said the old man cutting him off, “now juss help me get up to the seat and get off ba’fore ya spook em all to high heaven!”

They helped him up the steps and settled him in and made sure he’d know where they’d both be sitting.  “You should be able to see us both,” said Jack.  “You’ll have a better view of the hill top from here but each of us will get a better view of the bottom of the gully.  We’ll try to let you know if we see anything coming up your way.”

The old timer was about to voice another complaint when Bob handed him his Garand.  “Gimme that!” said the old man and started to look like he was going to launch into one of his threads about the origin of the gun that both of them had heard at least a hundred times.

He’d claimed he used it during the war to kill a whole slew of Germans.  They could never establish it’s validity one way or the other, but it seemed reasonable enough and they humored the old man.  Bob simply put his fingers to his lips though and cut any reprise short.

As they ambled down from the stand and headed down the hill, Bob noticed the old man already stuffing his pipe again with tobacco.

“Why’d you let him bring the danged pipe?  He’s gonna stink up the whole woods!” asked Bob.

Jack just shrugged saying, “He claims it attracts them.  I guess if all those antlers around his place tell any tale, there might be some truth to it.  Besides, there ain’t no point in arguing with him about it.  He’s gonna get his way anyhow.”

Bob said simply, “He always did like you best.”   Jack just chuckled as they each headed their separate ways at the split in the trail.

It was a general rule when they brought the old man along, to try to get the old timer a shot.  They hadn’t understood it when they were boys, but realized later on as they got older that although the old Cajun never played it as such, the rule had been pretty much reversed when they were the dependents in the scenario.  While they had usually managed to get deer, the Cajun would generally not take a shot at one until both of the boys had already got theirs for the season.

Bob looked occasionally up the hill at the stand to see the old man fidgeting or blowing out billows of white puffy smoke.  The wind seemed to be carrying most of it up hill toward the truck at least and it dissipated quickly into the pine branches behind the stand.

In reality, the tree stand only had a narrow view of the other side of the ravine.  And thus the animals had only a narrow view of the old man and the stand.  It was true that there was a big run coming down the other side, but the vantage point was limited to pretty much just it and the area where it joined the run that ran down the center of the gully.

They had set this and one other stand up specifically for their trips with the old man.  With either of their blinds placed down the hill within sight of the tree stand, they could both watch him and help funnel any deer down the main run.

It wasn’t too long and Bob could make out crunching coming down his side of the valley.  A young doe came down through the trees with a short tined 8-point following behind her.

He carefully ducked down below the front cover of the blind and waved his hands low to grab the old man’s attention.  He pointed the direction of the deer and held up 8 fingers, then pointed downward to represent it coming down the hill finally holding up his hands to show the approximate height of the horns.

He doubted the old man would see every gesture, but it was a long since established, albeit crude form of sign language they’d been using since they were young boys dragging on the old man’s pant cuffs.  It was enough to get the old man to put down his pipe and hunker a bit forward and start scanning the trees, that was all Bob hoped for so he again returned his attention to the buck.

Sure enough, the doe hit the deer trail down the center of the valley and the buck started to follow.  He could see that Jack had caught eye of it too and was watching it in his pocket binoculars.  Jack pointed below his back and out of sight of the deer toward the old man’s stand.  He’d already considered it was a good ‘gimme’ to let the old man take a shot at, but Bob gave a low thumbs up behind the wall of the front of his blind to show his acknowledgment.

He kept his eyes forward watching the two deer as they eventually worked their way right down to the middle of the ravine.  ‘they should be well within sight of the old man by now, what is he waiting for?‘  he thought to himself.  He waited for the deer to put their heads down and slowly turned to look up again at the stand.  The old man was hunkered forward but didn’t yet have his gun shouldered.

Bob pointed low toward the two deer and pointed toward the old man.  The old man saw the gesture and just shook his head to indicate a firm and stubborn ‘no‘.  Bob again pointed toward the buck and pointed to his eyes.  The old man nodded affirming ‘yes I do see them‘ but again shook his head ‘no‘ holding his gun a slight bit higher to indicate he had no intention of shooting.

Bob was perplexed.  The old man had been stubborn before, but this wasn’t a godawful buck.  It was a nice little 8-point and it should be an easy shot.  He looked at Jack who was watching the exchange and gave a minute shrug to say “I have no idea.

Again Bob pointed toward the two deer and made a gesture low with both his hands representing a ‘shooting’ action.  The old man just shook his head and held his gun across the railing of the blind pointing out over the top of the ravine instead of down toward the two deer.

Bob looked back and forth with his eyes between Jack and the old man a couple of times.  Eventually Jack just pointed first at the deer then at Bob indicating that he’d better take a shot if he could get it.

Forgetting the old man, Bob carefully and slowly raised his gun and waited for the deer to clear the small trees.  As the bucks shoulder came into view he leaned down on the gun but before he could even put his finger on the trigger, he heard the roar of the M1 Garand from up the hill.

Well it’s about damn time!‘ he thought but then realized the buck was still standing non-vexed, head now raised looking around and eventually ambled off, the doe following behind him.

He turned to look up the hill to see the old man still leaning down across his gun as he’d often told the boys to do after a shot, but he wasn’t pointing down in the valley at all.  The gun was still pointing up as it had been the last time he looked.  The old man just put his gun back down casually and picked back up his pipe and began to puff out more billows of smoke.  The two young men looked at one another perplexed.

They waited a few more minutes but realized the ruckus of the shot would probably mean they wouldn’t see much more before the old man got tired of sitting up in the stand and started to holler down.  Eventually Jack got up first and Bob followed suit and they headed back up the trails toward the old timer’s blind.

As they reached the split in the trail Bob asked, “What the hell was that?  Did he purposely shoot just to scare that deer away?”

“Hell if I know,” replied Jack.  “Maybe he’s finally loosing his eyes and just doesn’t want to say anything.”  Bob just shook his head and wondered further to himself continuing up the hill a few steps behind Jack.

As they got up under the stand, the old man looked quite contented, with a half cheesy grin on his face.  Jack just settled back putting his hands on his hips and Bob let out half a grin in response and shook his head.

“What?” was all the old man had to say.

“What?” asked Bob.  “Why didn’t you shoot that 8-point?”

“”Cuz I’m over the hill!” said the old man letting out a chuckle.  Bob couldn’t quite figure out if he was making a serious admission or another one of his twisted jokes.

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” asked Bob.

“Juss what I said!” responded the Cajun.  “I din’t shoot that 8-point, cuz unlike you two boys, I’m the only one ‘ere over the hill!”   He took another puff from his pipe but didn’t move from his seat and didn’t seem to make any effort to pick up his gear.

“Well are you gonna sit up there all day or are we gonna get out of here?” asked Jack.  The old man just puffed a bit more on his pipe and chuckled.

“Come up ‘ere a second boy.  I’m a gonna lern ya a thing or two about being ‘ore the hill.  You too,” he said pointing the pipe stem at Bob.  They came up to the stand and stood looking down at him on the now cramped platform.

“So what is it you’re gonna learn us this time old timer?” said Bob half frustrated and half sincere.  Truth be told he had learned more than a thing or two about a lot more than just hunting from the old fart through the years.

“Ya see ya rapscallions, you’s all down there comfy cozy in your blinds while you leave the old fart up in the stand.   I know, I know – I ain’t as amble as I used to be, but I c’an still hunt with the best of em.  You sees that little 8 pointer there and you’s a thinkin ‘that’s a good deer for the old man‘ but you’s a fergitten one thang.  That the ole man is the only one o’er the hill!”

With that the old Cajun took the pipe from his mouth and pointed the stem out across the valley toward the run heading down into the ravine.  “And you still think this old timer cain’t spot a buck.  Now why don’t you help me o’er to him and gut that one out fer me.  I doubt these old bones will be much use to that task.”

As he pointed they realized that there, in clear view of the tree stand but obscured from either of their two blinds, lay a monstrous buck — dead where it was shot by the old man’s Garand.

They stood looking in amazement but eventually returned to look to the old man, now grinning from ear to ear.

“I’m a thinkin he prolly smelled mah terbacco smoke.  He was up thar sniffin at the wind while you two were down there droolin over that lil one and makin with all your funny hand gestures. Now maybe next time you’ll remember which one of us ‘as the view from over the hill!  Hurry it up now… you still have a cord of wood to chop up before sundown!”

SWWood Scott Webster Wood
TheWild Webster

Thoughts from the Wild
The ObjectOpus
Things You Ought to Know
  1. My original thoughts on this piece was akin to a parable a bit more succinct on the subject of ‘perspectives’. I tried to think of a scenario where a bunch of people were working on a problem and only one of them had a view from a particular angle and none of the others wanted to listen to them.
    Kind of akin to the urban legend about the semi truck that gets stuck under the bridge. The driver, the semi company, the tow truck driver, police, fire, etc. are all looking at the top of the truck or at the bridge trying to figure out how to get the truck un-stuck until eventually a young boy comes up and suggests letting the air out of the tires and thus lowering the height of the truck.
    I’ve been re-reading a lot of Patrick McManus and posted a similar piece to this one based on a true story ( http://thewildwebster.wordpress.com/2010/12/01/the-great-snake-hunt/ ) from my younger years much in the style of McManus. The thought of a Rancid Crabtree style old man and two young boys was familiar to me from McManus’s writing and the thought of a vantage point that only the old man would have fit my original idea. Thus the story was born.

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